LONDON (AP) – Liverpool gave sick manager Brendan Rodgers something to smile about by outclassing last-place Queens Park Rangers 3-0 in the Premier League on Sunday, with Luis Suarez taking his season's tally to 13 goals with a brace at Loftus Road.
Rodgers was sent home from London on the morning of the match because of an illness but it didn't stop his team producing one of its most fluent performances of the season, albeit against a beleaguered opponent seemingly destined for relegation.
Suarez scored in the 10th and 16th minutes and a lopsided first half was rounded off by Daniel Agger's header from Steven Gerrard's cross in the 27th.
''There was a gap today - you can tell when Brendan is not there,'' said Gerrard, whose team moved up a place in ninth in the standings. ''I'm sure he's getting looked after at home and he'll be happy with the lads.''
PR, with just one win this campaign, improved after the break but will head into 2013 eight points from safety.
''It's damage limitation at halftime,'' QPR manager Harry Redknapp said. ''You have to make sure you are not beaten by seven or eight; that's the situation I was faced with.
''I still believe we will get out of trouble. You mustn't give up. Eight points is not insurmountable.''
Rodgers returned to Liverpool - along with backup goalkeeper Brad Jones and head of performance Glen Driscoll - on doctor's orders ''after succumbing to a likely virus that has made it impossible for him to be in close proximity with the players,'' the club said in a statement.
Assistant manager Colin Pascoe, who said Rodgers was ''whiter than white'' when he saw him in the morning, temporarily took charge and saw Suarez produce one of his spellbinding individual displays.
The Uruguay striker beat Clint Hill with embarrassing ease before slipping in a low finish for his first in the 10th minute, then followed up his own cross to pounce on a loose ball and stroke home from close range six minutes later.
Only two good saves from QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar denied Suarez a hat trick.
''He's a magician,'' Gerrard said. ''These (opposition) players only have to play against him twice a year - we have to train with him every day.''